Inside the Mind of Simon

The written records of Dr. Howard Turner

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entry 3: day fifteen of the second month of harvest, 1921

Although I wish I could write that the past few days have been dull and uneventful aside from medical cases, I am sorry to report that the child I spoke of in my previous entry has been kidnapped. Nobody knows who took the child or where the child was taken, but his mother, Anita Little, frantically burst into the surgery today, looking for her son and asking if I had seen him.

I tried to calm her and retrieve some facts in order to help her locate her missing child, but she said all she knew was that, in the middle of the night, there was a great crash in their house along with screaming from the youngster, and when the mother and father reached his bedroom to see what was the matter, he was gone. She said the father saw a figure outside and he gave chase, but after about thirty minutes, the father returned, saying he lost track of the criminal. He assumed that the child was knocked out along the way, as the boy’s cries were aiding the father in the chase of the suspect.

The mother was now speaking to everyone in the village, asking if they had seen or heard anything unusual since last night and checking to see if perhaps the boy had escaped the clutches of the suspect and had wandered back to town. I apologized and told her that I had no information regarding her son’s whereabouts, and she broke down, weeping bitterly. A little put off by her anguished display of grief, I let her sit down in the empty waiting area and made her a cup of tea.

“I’m sure he’ll be found soon,” I said kindly, sitting next to her and taking a sip from my own cup.

She continued to cry, though she had softened a bit since I had given her the tea. “Oh, Dr. Turner, I just can’t believe Johnny is gone! Who would be so evil as to abduct a poor, innocent child?”

“I do not know, ma’am, but I can assure that if I hear anything or see anything, I will let you know immediately. This kind of crime is unforgivable.”

“Thank you so much, Doctor,” she said, sniffing. “I’m sorry to have bothered you… I just hoped that maybe he had shown up here somehow since he’s taken a liking to you.”

I raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Has he?”

“Yes, truly. He was reluctant to stop reading the books but he said that he trusted you, so he helped me burn them.”

“Is that so? I’m honored, then.” It warmed my heart that the youngster had taken a shine to me, but it also hurt to know that he was possibly in great danger. “Do you have any idea who might possibly have taken him captive? Any enemies?” I only asked because I was clueless myself, though the town seemed peaceful enough. It would be just my luck for there to be some secret neighborhood warfare among the townsfolk and I would be the naïve stranger who knew nothing about it.

“We don’t have enemies around here. We’re just a normal town. But… I…” She hesitated for a moment. “I’m afraid this might have something to do with those books he found. We still don’t know who left them there. I asked my husband if he put them there as a joke… a really bad one, I might add… or if maybe one of his friends did it, since they get up to some weird things every now and then. He said he didn’t do it and he asked his friends if they did it, and all of them denied it. So neither of us have any idea who left the books there… This might sound crazy, but…” She bit her lip and looked away.

“Please, continue,” I urged.

“I think whoever put the books there may have been… unholy. Alchemy is strange and mysterious and has no place in our household nor anyone else’s in this town. There have been a few people who have passed through our town who claim to study it and there are some who even say they can use it. They were trying to, I don’t know, recruit some of the village folk to their religion or whatever it is they follow. They seemed nice enough, but that was probably just a ruse to get us to trust them. Anyway, we don’t welcome those kinds of people here, though, so they got the message pretty quick and didn’t stay long. However, there are rumors that they’ve set up camp not far from the town. I don’t know how true those rumors could be, since our local priest hasn’t felt any abnormal activity lately. Not even when the last child was kidnapped…”

“Wait, are you saying there’s been more than one kidnapping recently?”

“Not too recently,” said the mother. “It happened… five months ago, I believe. His name was Tucker Jones. He was about Johnny’s age when it happened. The Jones’ are another farming family that live not too far from us. I don’t know if you’ve been down to the farms, but they’re on the southern edge of town. All of us farming families live in small but decent houses with large fields, some of which we share. We rarely quarrel amongst ourselves, and when we do, it’s usually about selling prices at the market or land ownership. The farmers almost always work things out within a few days of a problem arising, though.”

“Was there are a quarrel around the time that Tucker was kidnapped?”

“No, there wasn’t. It was just a normal day. He was out playing in the field while his father was tending to the crops, but he was supposed to be keeping an eye on the child as well, since Tucker was known for being quite the adventurer. Mr. Jones saw his son playing by an old oak tree, looked away for a few seconds to water the tomatoes, looked back, then his son was gone. Like he had just disappeared. The grass is someone high and Tucker was a little on the short side, obviously, since he was only just a young boy, but his father took off running to find him. He searched the field before going around to tell the others, and everyone went on a search for the boy. No one ever found him, though.”

“Do you know if the boy was acting strange before he disappeared?”

“Mrs. Jones told us he had been a little sleepier lately, but he’d still go and play in the fields every day. However…” She paused again, looking unsure of herself. “I’m not really supposed to tell anyone about this…”

“Please, ma’am. If there’s any sort of connection between these two cases then anything, even the smallest detail, could aid in the search for Johnny. I ask politely that you continue.”

“There was… there was a weird-looking circle in the field where Tucker disappeared. Right next to the oak tree. It looked like it was filled with some of those weird alchemy symbols that were on the outfits those travelers wore and on the books they carried. Mrs. Jones didn’t want rumors of the family being involved with alchemy spreading to the town, so she asked that the circle be destroyed and covered up. You’re the only person outside of the farming families who knows about this. We don’t know if Tucker was kidnapped for certain or if he just ran off, but the story that the rest of town knows is that he was abducted.”

I thought carefully about all of the information she had given me, then I asked one final question. “You said that your husband was the one who let Johnny keep the books. If everyone in town is so opposed to alchemy, then why did your husband think it was okay for Johnny to have the books?”

“I honestly don’t know what was going through his head. He said that, smart as Johnny is, there was no way he would understand what was in those books. I refused to look at them, but my husband said he couldn’t make heads or tails of the books himself, so he figured it was harmless to let the boy read them. Well, as much as he could ‘read’ them, anyway. He said they were mostly pictures and a lot of the writing seemed to be in a different language.”

“It still doesn’t sound like it was a good idea for him to be in possession of the books,” I said. “Even if he couldn’t read them, it’s still devilish materials.”

“The thing is, Johnny only told us about the books reluctantly. We saw him reading them one day, asked him about them, and after he threw a little fit about us taking it away to look at it, he explained how he had found them and how interesting to look at they were. He just seemed so attached that my husband didn’t have the heart to take them away from him. He figured that Johnny would get tired of them after looking at them for a few days, anyway. Then he started complaining about the headaches, and we came to see you… and you know the rest.”

“I see. Thank you for sharing your story with me, Mrs. Little. I appreciate your willingness to tell me all the facts you know. Rest assured, I won’t tell a soul about the alchemy circle in the field. I swear.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” she said, looking at me for a moment before leaning in to give me a tight hug. I blushed a little, the touch of a woman being quite unfamiliar to me. “It felt kind of… good… to share all of this with someone. You’ll keep in touch if you find out anything, won’t you, Doctor?”

“Of course,” I promised. “Take care, ma’am. Be safe on your way home.”

She took her leave and I was left alone to my thoughts. I didn’t have any other visitors today aside from her, so I closed up early and am now writing this. Penning this entry has helped me think more clearly about the facts I was given today, and though I don’t know how much a simple doctor like me can help in a kidnapping case that may or may not involve alchemy users or other strange folk, but I will do my best to keep my promise.

In any case, I have to remember that my jury duty is in two days. I’m not sure if I can handle much more drama, so, oddly enough, I find myself now wishing that this upcoming court date will be about as uneventful as watching paint dry.

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entry 2: day twelve of the second month of harvest, 1921

I’ve been busy as a bee with all the patients I’ve had, and good gracious, have many of these patients been in dire need of a checkup! Most of their ailments are easy fixes, but some, if left untreated, could potentially be life-threatening. Thankfully, I’m here now to remedy this problem.

Even with all of the patients, there have been a surprisingly small amount of children, which I find a little strange. The town has nary an empty house, yet the number of youngsters to be seen can be counted with your fingers. I don’t have any real complaints about this, as child patients are usually somewhat hard to handle, though I have been told I have a very calming bedside manner and am good with children.

None of the cases so far have been very interesting, I’m sorry to say. Well, I suppose that’s actually a
good thing when you have no strange cases to report, as it means that the town as a whole is generally in satisfactory health.I can report, however, one mildly disturbing incident, but as far as I can tell, that problem also had an easy fix.

A mother brought in her young son for an examination, saying that the child had been complaining of headaches, nightmares, and a lack of sleep. She insisted that the headaches plagued him because he simply spent too much time inside the house reading and not enough time working on the family farm, and she believed that his nightmares were caused by the strange books he had found. The child looked terribly frightened of recalling his nightmares, so, being naturally curious and determined to seek out the root of the problem, I asked the mother to leave the room. She was a little put off by my request, but she agreed and exited to the waiting area.

I then questioned the boy, who was of the age of seven, of his night terrors, and he shook violently, looking as though he might begin to cry. I spoke in a hushed tone and assured him that I would not speak of his dreams to his mother or father. He nodded, seemingly comforted by my pledge, and he began to explain the nature of his dreams.

“I see darkness,” he began. Not very interesting, that, as forms of darkness are common elements to both waking life and to dreams. “It’s not just regular ol’ darkness. It’s, um, extra-dark. Like light could never go through it. Like the sun could never shine ever again.”

“And what else?” I asked.

“There are shapes in the darkness. There are usually, um, eight or ten of them. I can see their outer shapes but I can’t see their faces none. But I can feel them looking at me. I don’t see eyes, but I can feel them. It almost burns when they look at me. M-Mama told me that you can’t feel pain in a dream, but… I swear, Doctor, that I can feel pain!”

“I believe you,” I said kindly, placing a hand on his shoulder. “It is a common misconception that you cannot feel pain in dreams. Others say you can’t see color in dreams. But both of those theories are incorrect. May I ask about the books your mother spoke of?”

“Oh, yeah. Um, I found some books on our doorstep one day. They were in a little basket, but there wasn’t a note or nothing, so I don’t know who left it there. Mama and Daddy weren’t around, so I took it inside and brought ‘em to my room. I really like reading, so I started looking at them. They didn’t have words on the covers but they had lots of words on the inside. I can’t read a lot of the words ‘cause they’re really, really big, but there are lots of pictures, too. Drawings of circles and people and body parts. There are also some words that look like they’re in a different language that I can’t read. I don’t understand what the books are for, but I look at them sometimes because they’re weird and they talk about magic and a thing called… al-shem-ee,” he pronounced carefully. “Sometimes I feel a little tired after I read them, but that’s probably on account of all the big words.”

“I see. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to stop reading those books,” I said calmly. “Your mother is probably right about the books giving you nightmares. Sometimes people have trouble telling fiction apart from reality. I don’t want you to get confused about what’s real and give yourself nightmares. Please stop reading them, and if at all possible, you should probably get rid of them.”

He nodded, looking a little disappointed. “They were pretty neat. But if you say so…”

“I’d also like you to read in well-lit areas from now on.”

“Sure thing, Doctor.”

He pulled himself forward and slid off the exam table, then I ushered him to the waiting room.

“I’ve told him to start reading in well-lit rooms from today forward, possibly reading only when outside instead of inside if at all possible. Reading in the darkness is probably straining his eyes and causing his headaches. The headaches are also probably caused from lack of sleep due to the nightmares, which should stop as soon as he stops reading those books. I recommend disposing of them.” I leaned in a bit closer to the mother. “I personally rather distrust books about things such as alchemy. It’s not right to fill a young child’s head with such nonsense.”

“You’re right, Dr. Turner,” she said, nodding. “Those kinds of lies go against God himself. I’ve been letting him keep them just because his father said so, but I’m going to take your advice and get rid of them. Thank you so much, Doctor.”

I bid farewell to the mother and child, then brought in the next patient. The rest of the afternoon was uneventful and a little dull save for an emergency tooth-pulling at the end of the day, so I was glad to go home. I would have written about this sooner but I thought I’d wait to see if anything else interesting happened before penning this so I could consolidate the entries. Ah well.

I almost forgot: despite being a very new citizen of the town, I have already received a summons for jury duty. The date is next week, so I have prepared a small sign for the outside of my surgery to warn potential patients that I will be out for business. I suppose attending the trial is for the good of the town, but it really is tiresome. Who knows, though, perhaps the case will actually be intriguing instead of a trial for a petty thief or something of the like.

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entry one: day seven of the second month of harvest, in the year 1921

I suppose that now that I’ve moved to a new town, I should start a fresh journal. Depending on how busy my surgery is, I may or may not have much time to write in it, but I will do my best to make an entry as often as I can. Perhaps daily writings would be too much of a stretch… it would suit me better to wait until I have a proper schedule of work before I consider how much time can be dedicated to penning the events of my life.

Ha! It sounds a little preposterous of me to assume that my entries will be of an exciting sort. A strange case here or there is most likely the only interesting news to land on these pages. And who will be reading this aside from me, I wonder? Another joke on my behalf; the answer is clearly no one… unless I were to share this with a special person. At the moment, I can only think of one person fitting that description, and she is far from here. If you ever read this, Margaret, I just want you to know that I love you very much, and I am working hard to become a man that you truly deserve. Once my finances are in order, I intend to travel back to Jadesville and make you my bride, should you find me worthy.

Jadesville is overrun with doctors, so what would make me, lowly Howard Turner, anything special? Knowing that I could not make a proper living in my hometown, I moved here to Origon, a place that lacks suitable medical facilities. Perfect for a man like me, one who has so much to prove and so dire a need of money. I used the last of my funds to reach this town, packing everything I could carry into a small wagon. The townspeople seem so grateful to have a doctor here, and I intend to live up to their expectations and perhaps beyond those.

My past studies have served me well, but every day is just another opportunity to learn and expand my medical knowledge. You can never know too much, I always say, though others beg to differ. I repeated my mantra to an old-looking gentleman who inquired about my new practice in the town, and he gave me a grave look that plainly told of disagreement.

“You may regret not knowing enough, but there are many who regret knowing too much,” he said darkly. I did not let his grim words put a damper on my mood, though it seems as though this whole town has a little bit of a dark aura to it that is slowly starting to creep into my subconscious. Perhaps it is just because of the grey clouds that have plagued the skies since I moved here… All skies eventually clear, though, so I mustn’t worry. My new life has just begun, and I eagerly await my first patients as well as the friendships I will most certainly create in the small town of Origon.

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prologue: the curious tome

During a search of your grandmother’s attic, you find a very old diary, one that is bound in red leather and has a very rusty lock keeping it shut. You easily break open the lock and inspect the inside of the book. The name written on the inside reads, “Dr. Howard Turner.” The first journal entry is dated to the year 1921.

You idly flip through the dusty tome, an odd smell that is both familiar and foreign to you emanating from the tattered pages. The first few entries are written in a calm, fluid manner with neat handwriting. They seem to be purely in the interest of documenting the rather boring life of some doctor you’ve never heard of who bears a family name different from yours.

However, as you keep perusing the pages, you notice a sort of urgency in the handwriting of the later entries, and your eyes happen to catch the words “captive” and “hostage” a few times. Your interest piqued, you decide to start at the very beginning of the journal…

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